Rory Macdonald stands out as one of the most interesting British conductors of his generation. He leads stylish performances of classical and romantic repertoire whilst also relishing the chance to perform lesser-known and contemporary works.
As an opera conductor, Rory is particularly admired for his interpretations of Mozart and Benjamin Britten. His 2018/19 highlights include a production of Britten’s Peter Grimes at the Brisbane Festival with Stuart Skelton and Sally Matthews. He has conducted new productions of Owen Wingrave and A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; Albert Herring for Glyndebourne on Tour; and The Turn of the Screw with Mark Padmore and Miah Persson at the Vienna Konzerthaus. In addition, he marked his US debut with A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Lyric Opera of Chicago, which was followed by The Rape of Lucretia at Houston Grand Opera.
Rory made his debut with Oper Frankfurt 2017/18 in Mozart’s Così fan tutte and returns to the house in 2020/21 for Le nozze di Figaro. Prior to that, Rory has conducted new productions of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera and Royal Danish Opera. He recently made his debut with Opera Australia conducting Die Zauberflöte at the Sydney Opera House.
Rory opened the 2017/18 season with Opera di Roma’s new production of Auber’s Fra Diavolo, directed by Giorgio Barberio Corsetti. Other recent operatic engagements include Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen for Bergen Opera as well as new productions of Bizet’s Carmen at Canadian Opera Company, Houston Grand Opera and Santa Fe Opera.
On the concert podium, Rory’s performances this season so far include London Philharmonic, BBC Scottish Symphony, Sinfonieorchester Wuppertal, and Ulster orchestras, as well as a return to Japan with the Nagoya Philharmonic and Kanagawa Philharmonic orchestras. His upcoming engagements include the Royal Philharmonic, BBC Philharmonic, and Essen Philharmonic orchestras, and his debut with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.
Last season’s engagements included return visits to the BBC Philharmonic, BBC Scottish, Royal Philharmonic, Ulster Orchestra, and Royal Scottish National orchestras. He also made his debut with Residentie Orchestra, Orchestra Filharmonica di Bologna and Prague Philharmonia, and conducted the première performances of Carl Vine’s Double Piano Concerto with Kathryn Stott and Piers Lane with both the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. In previous seasons Rory has conducted the Royal Concertgebouw, Netherlands Philharmonic, Oslo Philharmonic, Bergen Philharmonic, Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, BBC Symphony, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and the Hallé Orchestra among others. He has conducted the premieres of works by notable composers such as Sir James Macmillan, Sally Beamish and Geoffrey Gordon.
Rory’s discography with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra includes an album with Danny Driver for Hyperion, and with Nicola Benedetti for Decca. He has also recorded Sullivan’s opera The Beauty Stone with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales for Chandos. His latest recording of symphonies by Thomas Wilson with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra will be released in 2019 on Linn Records.
Rory Macdonald studied music at Cambridge University. While at university he studied under David Zinman and Jorma Panula at the American Academy of Conducting in Aspen. After graduating from Cambridge he was appointed assistant conductor to Iván Fischer at the Budapest Festival Orchestra (2001-2003), and to Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra (2006-2008). He was also a member of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House (2004-2006), where he worked closely with Antonio Pappano on such major projects as the complete Ring cycle.
Directed by Stephen Langridge, the production opens on 16 May 2019, with further performances thereafter on 19, 21, 24, and 26 May before it revives on 31 August, 6, 8, 13, and 15 September 2019. The cast features Mattias Ermedahl and Ida Falk Winland as...
IMG Artists is delighted to announce the signing of conductor Rory Macdonald for General Management with immediate effect. A prolific conductor on both the opera and orchestral stages, highlights of Rory Macdonald’s current season include his debut with Frankfurt...
“Rory Macdonald and the orchestra certainly hold our attention in what is a superb performance of quite a showpiece… Performances from Rory Macdonald and the RSNO are excellent, bringing out both the colour and the argument of the music and holding us throughout all this fascinating music. This is a fine examination of the music of one of Scotland’s major figures from the later 20th century.”
[Recording of Thomas Wilson’s Symphonies no. 3, 4, and Carillon with Royal Scottish National Orchestra]
“The Gothenburg Opera’s choir and orchestra under the direction of Rory Macdonald sound just as I want that Mozart should be interpreted when it is at its best… A performance well worth seeing!” [Le nozze di Figaro with Gothenburg Opera]
Thorvald Pellby Petterson
“Conductor Rory MacDonald has rightly ensured that the music feels easy and crisp. …. Mozart’s music sparkles.” [Le nozze di Figaro with Gothenburg Opera]
Carl Magnus Juliusson
“Rory MacDonald produces a performance of the highest and most electric quality for this most self-confident of symphonies… the Royal Scottish National Orchestra play for Macdonald as if they have known this music for many years.” [Album: Thomas Wilson: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 with Royal Scottish National Orchestra, for LINN records]
“Wilson’s is a big, eclectic style, and the performances are arresting.” [Album: Thomas Wilson: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 with Royal Scottish National Orchestra, for LINN records]
“This was a fascinating discovery. Wilson – a 20th-century Scottish composer – has clearly been overlooked. His writing is colourful, dynamic and cinematic, and it is delivered with real panache here.” [Album: Thomas Wilson: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 with Royal Scottish National Orchestra, for LINN records]
“This recording is a fitting tribute to the leading Scottish composer of his generation by an orchestra who inspired and premiered his work.” [Album: Thomas Wilson: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 with Royal Scottish National Orchestra, for LINN records]
“A distinct and original voice……….the orchestration in the Fourth Symphony, a musical autobiography of Paisley, is especially arresting.” [Album: Thomas Wilson: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 with Royal Scottish National Orchestra, for LINN records]
“Rory Macdonald conducts strongly committed performances of these superb, often exacting but always beautiful scores and the RSNO respond with empathy and great verve. Everyone concerned obviously believes in every note of these scores, while the whole is superbly recorded.”
“As often happens with composers immediately after their deaths, Wilson’s music has fallen out of circulation. Will it ever come back? Just listen to the two symphonies – Nos 3 & 4 – on this fiery new recording by the RSNO under Rory Macdonald, and there’s every reason to believe it will.”Ken Walton
“Conductor Rory Macdonald paced this piece just right and made the hymn-like central section positively sing. Helen Grime’s ‘Snow’ was more challenging, as modern music can be, yet here, too, Macdonald’s clear direction helped the audience get to the heart of a difficult piece. It was a wonderful concert by one of the country’s finest orchestras [BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra] at the top of its form, under the baton of an outstanding young conductor”
“…the rock-solid musicality of conductor Rory Macdonald, and a display by the Opera Queensland chorus and the QSO rich in insight and verve, this is a Grimes that Brisbane can be immensely proud of.”
“Queensland Symphony Orchestra – who sat magnificent on centre stage with the performers acting around them, using just a handful of props – managed to conjure up the swells and sighs of the sea under the acclaimed Scottish conductor Rory Macdonald.”
“The Queensland Symphony Orchestra and conductor Rory Macdonald are heroic in their playing of this masterpiece. To single out a particular section would not suitably reflect the quality of playing that maestro Macdonald drew from the orchestra. Some highlights were the shimmering unison strings in the first sea interlude, a magnificently balanced and clear brass section throughout, and a gorgeous viola solo in the Passacaglia.”
“Macdonald emerged from the start as a force to reckon with. His close control of the opener, Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks, breathed sunlight and air into an overtly programmatic piece that characteristically tends towards the surreal. Winds and brass could easily have outshone strings in this 15-piece ensemble, but were held in pleasing balance. Further tribute to Macdonald’s instant romance with WASO came after the break, with two firm favourites given a fresh gloss. Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kije suite, full of nouns and verbs in its paean to a fake news hero, can be folkloric romp or, more true to history, an ironic essay on the folly of power. From the first, faint offstage trumpet, through birth, romance, wedding and the Troika — etched in the imagination, with or without verbs — to the funereal tones and haunting distant bugle call of the ending, Macdonald had his best kid gloves on. At the last, Ravel’s Bolero was a masterclass in anticipation, a languid baton caressing the unseen dancer into almost tangible form (pun intended). As the pace and intensity rise, it is all too easy for cohesion to collapse — un-Ravel, even — as has happened in WASO’s hallowed past. But here, passion and polish were in lock step, right to the roiling conclusion.”
“This opera also marked the rare occasion in which I had a great view of the conductor, and watching Rory Macdonald in action was itself a spectacle. The maestro mouthed along much of the lyrics, acted in part as a prompter to the singers and was assured and in control in the pit with so much occurring on stage. His orchestra produced a delightful, breezy rendition of Auber’s score. Macdonald was as much a star as anyone on stage.”
“[Rory Macdonald] struck the perfect balance between wit and melodrama and led a lively performance of Auber’s frothy score. The Rome Opera’s excellent orchestra and chorus joined in the fun.”
“Taking over Lyric’s Mozart wing from Andrew Davis, Scottish conductor Rory Macdonald led a crisp and nuanced performance, within often brisk tempos that did not crowd the singers, or on the other hand, allow the long Mozart line or rhythms to slacken. His interpretation drew on alert, well-balanced playing from the orchestra, and robust singing from director Michael Black’s admirable chorus…”
“Conductor Rory Macdonald proved a solid Mozart hand in the pit, providing vitality and sensitivity as needed… The Lyric Opera Orchestra played with enviable sparkle and freshness, even in this familiar score.”
Chicago Classical Review, December 2016
“Lyric’s pit orchestra bring Mozart’s beloved score buoyantly to life under the sensitive baton of Rory MacDonald, who makes sure the action and energy never flag.”
Chicago SunTimes, December 2016